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How To Reduce Our Racial Bias

by Dewi Ridzuan. |

It’s not easy to run for president. It’s even harder to run a country as multicultural as Malaysia. That is why ministers and political figures always have scripts ready, as to not leave out or offend any group of people.

Although Malaysia has much better racial harmony than in some countries, you can’t go scot-free just yet. Ethnic prejudices are still a local happenstance. Whether you have it or not, here’s how to reduce our racial bias.

1. Look In The Mirror

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation

For many of us, productive self-reflection happens quite often. However, for others, it can be quite hard to see past the rose-tinted glass of privilege they might have. So, how do you recognize if you have a racial bias when you self-reflect?

First, you should try identifying if you carry any prejudices. The easiest way to do this is by looking at the people around you a different race, and see if you have any stereotypes that you’ve already placed on them. This could be like ‘that race is good at numbers’ or ‘their people are not trustworthy.’ Now, question yourself as ask if that bias you have is truly reflective of every single individual of that race. It isn’t right? That’s how you realize if you carry racial bias!

The extra important note here, is how can you reduce the racial bias you have? One way is by not isolating yourself from that race. For example, if you have a group project for school or work, don’t immediately rule them out because there’s a racial bias that they’re ‘not as bright.’ Instead, invite them into your group, and you’d be able to then see your bias going away as it was never true at all!

You can also try expanding your knowledge more, meaning you’d need to delve in a bit of research. For example, the common thought is that foreigners or immigrants steal and rob the most. However, it’s been proven that the crimes committed by them were only a small percentage. More locals commit crimes then foreigners, so we should always ensure that if we have a bias or belief, that it’s backed by facts!

2. It Starts From Home

Source: Penn Today

The next time you make a racial remark or say something negative about a group of people, ask yourselves where you picked it up? Is it from home, school, or even your workplace?

In many cases, it starts at home. This is because your thoughts are sculpted by your immediate environment. Every so often, the prejudices and beliefs of your ancestors get passed down to us. Many cultures, especially those in Malaysia hold firmly to ‘kata-kata orang tua’ or the words of the elderly.

The best thing you can do is to take everything your elders say with a grain of salt! Although yes, you may trust in their experiences but just remember that everyone carries a different perspective, so your elders may have a different or skewered version of it. Another thing is that if they were to perpetuate negative stereotypes of another culture or anything, do remember that the only way these stereotypes can go on living is if you don’t end the practice. So, don’t engage, participate or spread those stereotypes yourself!

One thing to note is that there is a wide belief that our first thoughts are conditioned and the seconds are our own. So if you ever had a negative bias towards someone and then corrected yourself, it’s good progress!

3. Be Aware of Racial Slurs

Almost everyone has been called names. However, some words hurt on a different level, especially those that carry years of colonial subjugation or oppression.

That is why we must be aware of racial slurs, no matter if it’s a norm where we live. Even if you have never faced this sort of treatment, understand that that is a privilege on its own! At the end of the day, all parties should understand why we shouldn’t use racial slurs to begin with.

See, racial slurs and stereotypes can go hand in hand. They’re usually myths of a certain race and not the actual representation of them. A small example of a slur could be as simple as ‘this race is usually lazy.’ Perpetuating this generalization is dangerous, as it paints a negative image of every single individual of that race, and affects those who weren’t, in this case lazy at all. What happens then is that everyone else in that community would have to go out of their way to disprove this idea first!

The best way to detach from the habit of using slurs is by understanding why it was created in the first place. One should study historical references related to the becoming of that slur, and how it makes the victim feel. It’s also good to know that we should avoid herd mentality or the bandwagon effect theory. They both are about us avoiding conforming to a group’s ideals just because it’s the ‘trend’ or ‘thing’ that everyone is doing.

4. Quit Stereotyping

Stereotyping explained most simply is this: just because there is one spoiled tomato in the bunch, doesn't mean the whole batch of tomatoes is rotten. The same goes for humans!

Stereotypes are somewhat similar to racial slurs, we have to quit generalizing people as a whole and following the crowd. Stereotypes usually come about by systemic racism, which is usually indoctrinated through institutionalized racism. But what does this ‘institution’ look like? It can come in many ways; some are like the caste systems in India, selective privileges, and more.

Source: Convergence

5. Practice a Cross-cultural Lifestyle

Malaysians are lucky that we can all sit at one table and see each other as blood brothers and sisters of this land first before our race. However, not everyone has a diverse circle of friends.

Cross-cultural practice is the reason why people are always encouraging us to mix around. You should diversify your group of friends and connections because that way you won’t be ignorant of other people’s values. It will help you become warier of religious elements and cultural virtues. This in turn reduces your tendency to be racially biased as you will understand someone else’s perspective better.

Having more diverse friends also brings another plus point. It allows you to participate in more multicultural dialogues and be more sensitive to cultural issues. It’s no surprise that reducing your bias this way can take a lot of learning and understanding. It can put you in an uncomfortable position too. You may feel uneasy when trying to acknowledge your mistakes or ignorance. However, in most cases, people are understanding and are willing to educate you.

It’s never easy, but reducing your personal racial bias will help Malaysians, or whichever country you are from into becoming a more developed nation. We as individuals must work on ourselves, as to not pass down our possible biased views to the next generation.

You can learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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